Chris Chatburn

Chris Chatburn

AS Review: Why do you want to serve on the AS board of directors? What motivates you to seek this position?

Chris Chatburn: I see a lot of things that need to get done at Western and things that need to be changed and I see relatively few of my fellow AS employees doing anything about it. The board of directors is the only institutional group of people on campus whose sole job is to listen to student issues and concerns and interests and actually do something about it. I think that at this point in time there’s nothing more interesting to students than budget cuts, and consequently, tuition increases and cuts to financial aid. Because, like I said, people are having to make these tough choices of whether or not to continue their education. They’re the only people that can really have a chance at protecting us against $600 to $1000 tuition increases per year. So, all these decisions are fundamentally made by our state legislators. As Vice President of Governmental Affairs I have the unique ability to work with our legislators to convince them to stop cutting and keep funding education at Western Washington University so that we can keep this campus affordable and accessible to everybody. So that’s what has drawn me to the board. And then specifically to this position, I think it utilizes my skills that I’ve picked up at the Washington State Attorney General’s office and as a current employee of the Associated Students. I’m really excited to get things done for students next year and keep this campus accessible to everybody.

ASR: What do you believe the role of the AS board of directors is?

CC: If we imagined that the Associated Students was a company, the board of directors would be the CEOs and CFOs and whatever other acronyms you want to come up with. They make the executive decisions that need to be made on a weekly basis, and their decisions actually affect students in several ways. The primary role of the board of directors is to listen to what students have to say and their concerns and the things they want to see change in the Western Washington University campus. So the board of directors, like I’ve been saying, they do make the executive decisions but their primary role is to represent the students that voted them in and I think that next year’s AS board of directors is going to have a particularly interesting position of representing students’ interests as far as the budget goes and tuition increases and cuts to financial aid, because they’re coming.

ASR: If elected, what specific things will you do to ensure that you represent all students?

CC: The first thing that any board of director member can do to ensure that they represent students is to listen to them. That can be anything from talking to people in the Viking Union or the Viking Commons or creating events specifically for students to come voice their concerns. I want to make sure that next year as a board of director member that I continue listening to students and concerns and create safe places for people to come talk to me. Further, I’d like to set up a booth in Red Square, maybe every couple times a month, that students can come in between [or] on their way to classes and talk to me and other members of the board about the issues that concern them most. I want to have an event at least once a month where all the members of the board of directors meet together and listen to students’ concerns in a forum/panel format so we’re constantly listening to students’ concerns because the board has been criticized in the past for being closed off and for being inaccessible to students. We need to make sure that they’re with us every step of the way and that they know every decision that we’re making because I think that’s a key part of any elected official’s duties.

ASR: Since you’ve been at Western, what has been an important issue facing students that went unaddressed or was dealt with poorly?

CC: I think that last year and this year specifically, the process by which Western gets money from the state government to fund our programs have been completely inaccessible to students on campus and really confusing. I think that the board, the past couple boards, have dealt with that issue poorly. We need to make sure, like I said earlier, that people know —students know —what the board of directors is doing. So making sure that students aren’t kept in the dark about tuition increases and cuts to financial aid, that they have places to go and talk about these things. I know that as a student I’m a lot more upset when I’m kept in the dark about issues than if people come out and say, “Here these are the facts that we’re dealing with right now.”

ASR: What was an issue that you think was addressed particularly well?

CC: This year, we completely revamped the hiring system in the Associated Students and I think that was a positive thing on campus. The AS as a whole has been criticized for years that it’s closed off, it’s hard to get into, people apply for the same positions or apply for other positions within the AS year after year and it’s hard for people that haven’t been in the AS before to break into that mold. This year the board changed it so that current coordinators and directors aren’t on their own hiring committees, which discourages hiring your protégé. That is an issue that I think is visible on campus, and the AS board is able to take in the criticism, analyze it and figure out a way to make the system better.

[caption id="attachment_2387" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="Byron Starkey"]Byron Starkey[/caption]

AS Review:  Why do you want to serve on the AS board of directors? What motivates you to seek this position?

Byron Starkey: At my time at Western I’ve noticed that they have such a great capacity to represent student interests, but they can do more and that is one form of motivation. Right now the AS has not formalized how we go about advocating for higher education issues. Actually, this year we’re starting to lay the foundation for it by creating the new office [Representation and Engagement Programs]. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that. So I think that’s a good first step but I think that more can be done and being on the board will make it so that I can further these efforts and hopefully organize the campus more, because higher education is an issue that matters a lot to me and I think that education is a basic right and we’ve seen over the past ten years that education has been a rainy day fund for the state. And that’s one form of motivation, and I think that if I can serve on the board of directors I can hopefully address many of these issues.

ASR:  What do you believe the role of the AS board of directors is?

BS: Representing student interests and concerns to administration and, in the case of the position that I’m running for, legislators. Also advocating on behalf of students for issues that are important to them.

ASR:  If elected, what specific things will you do to ensure that you represent all students?

BS: Well, I think there’s no question that there needs to be more outreach to students to better inform them of what’s going on in Olympia. We’re starting to do that this year, but I think we need to better utilize the AS club system and the organizations we already have set up so that we can increase awareness of what is going on in the legislature. I also think that one thing we haven’t done this year – I think that we need to utilize the Student Senate a lot more because that is supposed to be an advisory committee to the board of directors and if we can utilize that organization we’re going to be able to hear hopefully more concerns and issues that students have about what is going on on campus.

ASR:  Since you’ve been at Western, what has been an important issue facing students that went unaddressed or was dealt with poorly?

BS: I have two things here. So, the first one is position-specific. I think that we need to create a shorter legislative agenda, and that will focus on a few important issues affecting students to create a more cohesive document so that when we give it to legislature they’ll actually read it [rather]than kind of putting it on their desk and ignoring it. That’s what happened a couple times in Olympia when we were down there lobbying them. So we need to make it more cohesive.
Secondly, we need to make sure – I want to make sure the Associated Students takes more of a leadership role to represent students for an advocacy for gender-inclusive housing. This is an issue that had overwhelming support this year from numerous organizations on campus and I think that the AS needs to play a larger role next year and be a leader in making sure that stuff gets done.

ASR:  What has been an issue that was addressed particularly well?

BS: As I mentioned before, I think the creation of the Representation and Engagement Programs office is an important step in creating student awareness and making the Associated Students more responsive to the concerns of students. And also, I don’t know if you want to hear, but I’ll go for it anyway. The creation of a charter for the Associated Students that legitimizes its role within the university. I think that, for the long-term, is something that we definitely want and we need and are definitely on our way to getting done right now.